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Get to know the Finalists in the Energy + Environment Open Data Challenge

Nesta and The Open Data Institute have been running the Energy + Environment Open Data Challenge, part of the Open Data Challenge Series. We have been looking for teams to create open data products and services that could help communities lower their energy bills, undertake community based energy efficiency interventions or generate their own energy.

On 22nd + 23rd  March at the Energy + Envrionment Creation Weekend, we were excited to announce three finalists that were chosen to win £5,000 and a package of incubation support. Now those three teams will go head to head in the run up to the final in June, where they will pitch to win £40,000 to fully launch their product.

Our finalists were Energy Benchmarking+Community Energy Manager and EnergySchools. Read their interviews below to find out more about their ideas and plans over the next couple of months.

 

Energy Benchmarking+

What is Energy Benchmarking+?

The Locatable Energy Benchmark+ concept expands on our existing energy benchmarking tool for homeowners by enabling homeowners and communities to transparently compete and communicate, online and offline, on energy performance.

Who is in your team?     

I'm Nick Katz, CEO and co-founder of Locatable.

Kristina Naruseviciute is my partner in crime (girlfriend) so met outside of work but also a visual consultant to us at Locatable. Kristina is co-founder of SmartupVisuals and has a team of artists, designers, illustrators and animators that specialise in helping companies, particularly startups, communicate their business through visuals.

Mike Simpson is an electronics engineer at Rolls-Royce and a member of the Bristol Energy Co-op. I met Mike by posting our project submitted on CollabFinder - a collaboration platform set up by Nesta/ODI to link people to the projects they found most interesting for this Challenge.

Much of the Locatable journey has been a digital one, from me finding my way to the ODI originally through Twitter to meet the co-founder of Locatable who is now our CTO, to acquiring our new office space from popular retail pop-up website www.wearepopup.com to finding Mike as a team member for the hackathon over the weekend."

Tell us in more about Energy Benchmarking+

Typically, energy and sustainability are issues that are dealt with by specialists, and often in isolation. However, we know from experience that when it comes to influencing decision makers of property, energy costs should be dealt with in conjunction with other major costs involving the home like a mortgage, insurance, and improvements.

Locatable.com is a one stop shop solution for homeowners to manage all costs, information and services related to the home. Energy is a big piece of this but not the only piece. The platform as a whole is consumer focused and engenders friendly competition amongst users by enabling them to benchmark themselves against other homes like theirs (this is where we use open data from DECC on electricity and gas usage) to understand how well they are performing.

We also use open data available on homes to enable householders to track not just ongoing costs, but property attributes that can be used again and again to compare value changes against similar properties, find better energy deals, and to better enable group buying of both energy and specific improvements for properties where we customers in a certain neighbourhood or community reach a critical mass.

In summary:

Innovation - part of a one stop solution for home management, a digital home dashboard. A benchmarking functionality that gives context to performance and gamifies the desire to improve carbon, energy and cost performance.
Social impact - bringing communities of householders together through a single, online platform. A focus from Locatable in creating this online but a massive focus on facilitating shared learning and collective action offline as well as online through a series of pop-ups in neighbourhoods where a critical mass of Locatablers has been reached.
Sustainability - we have a simple business model where we get paid for lead generation to established affiliate programs and trusted 3rd party websites/brands that specialise with property related service comparisons, rated service provider networks and group buying.


Locatable is all about utilising transparency and co-opetition to help consumer householders get smart when it comes to home costs - particularly with energy, where our initial suite of tools has been developed.
By empowering householders, and increasingly communities, we will help create social, environmental and economic benefits for our users, their local communities, local service providers, local and wider Government and ultimately the UK economy.

How did you come up with the idea, when was the light bulb moment?           

Spending time at my last real estate tech company, also based at the Open Data Institute, and now Locatable it’s been a constant source of amazement how much data the UK Government is unlocking and sharing so that companies like ours can create strategies with triple bottom line benefit.

The “a-ha” moment came for us when categorising the various data sets we’d researched, that there were sub regional statistics available from the Department of Energy and Climate Change on electricity and gas consumption which we could use as a baseline/benchmark comparator people and homes on Locatable.com.

Knowing your bill is more than last month, is vaguely interesting, but knowing how you have been doing against similar households and over time is much more interesting.
We keep a tight handle on existing and new data sets released publicly through our advisory team, many of whom have relationships with the Open Data Institute. We are increasingly looking to grow our team of developers, engineers and data scientists with a similar appetite for open data, transparency and helping consumers make sensible decisions about their most their most valuable asset - their home.

How your project will help communities to a) save money on their energy bills b) undertake community based energy efficiency interventions or c) start to generate their own energy

Our live energy tool (it's publicly available and free) tells consumers how much more (or less) they are spending on energy bills than their neighbours. We enable users to learn about better energy deals where their consumption and spend are not in sync with each other (in comparison to benchmark data on similar homes in the same area).
We now want to help our users derive further context by enabling them to demonstrate their interest in group buying (when a certain critical mass is hit, we’d alert a company like ThisIsTheBigDeal or similar) and also get them to share some data from their Energy Performance Certificate with us so our system could eventually automatically and intelligently

  1. Suggest improvements/interventions
  2. Identify how many households in your area need similar improvements/interventions so that economies of scale could be leveraged and services/materials/projects be delivered in bulk.

As the network grows superusers and supersavers emerge. These people get additional access and privileges so their knowledge can be shared back with the community.
Online engagement:

  1. Network to communicate with neighbours, peers and friends.
  2. Systems in place to automate intelligent suggestions to send leads to Uswitch.com for energy switching, RatedPeople.com for improvements and ThisIsTheBigDeal.com for group buying


Offline engagement:

  1. Series of physical pop-ups with superusers and industry experts
  2. Enjoy your extra time & money so you can go back to enjoying home & live your life

 

Community Energy Manager

 

What is Community Energy Manager?

It’s an online tool to help community groups manage their relationships with householders and generate income through energy efficiency projects in private households as well as improve the housing in their area.

Who is in your team?       

Our team consists of Matt Wood and Mark Corbin, we're both energy professionals working at BioRegional (Matt) and Eunomia (Mark). Matt is a director of Easton Energy Group, a community group based in an inner city part of Bristol, and Mark is former director of Bristol Energy Cooperative, who have installed solar panels on community buildings through a public share offer.

Tell us in more about Community Energy Manager

At the moment, private householders (owned and rented) are left out of energy efficiency improvements. Some will have had free loft and cavity wall insulation, but 8 million houses in the UK are solid wall, which is expensive to insulate. Almost all the money being spent to insulate these houses is in social/council housing because installers only have to deal with one energy manager at the housing association/council and they save money insulating hundreds of houses at once.
Community Energy Manager will help community groups to manage the energy efficiency of their areas and bring in funding for large scale retrofit projects. Firstly, the tool will use open data to help groups focus on particular areas/groups of people. Then they will be able to organise events and projects to interact with householders and record the information they collect online. Then they can analyse this information to get projects funded, e.g. if 200 people need a new boiler they can approach an installer (through the tool) to get a good price and a referral fee for their group.
These referral fees will help community groups to do more activities, employ staff and improve their local economy.     

How did you come up with the idea, when was the light bulb moment?           

Both of us have worked in community energy and also are professionals in the energy sector and we saw that lots of big companies were making big money but local people weren't getting the benefit and many were missing out for various reasons. We wanted to use our experience to help our local areas reduce their fuel bills and heat their homes properly. The main things that many communities are missing are proper organisation and access to large-scale funding. We both came up with the idea separately as a way to help groups do both these things.

Tell us how your project will help communities to a) save money on their energy bills b) undertake community based energy efficiency interventions or c) start to generate their own energy              

Community Energy Manager will help people save money on their energy bills by facilitating energy efficiency projects that otherwise wouldn't happen and can also help generate an income for their community groups. It can also help them organise multi-household renewable energy schemes by facilitating bulk-purchasing.

 

EnergySchools

What is EnergySchools?

EnergySchools makes community energy projects possible by turning schools into hubs for community energy initiatives and by helping students to become "community energy ambassadors"

Who is in your team?

Gerd Kortuem, Mathieu d'Aquin and Sean McDougall, Founder and MD Stakeholder Design
 Education Fast Forward Fellow

Tell us more about EnegrySchools

EnergySchools is a social enterprise whose main product is an energy education programme for schools that integrates learning with community engagement, while making the school a center for community energy initiatives. EnergySchools uses students' direct involvement with energy issues as a teaching method, asking them to assess the energy efficiency of their homes and school, and to initiate relevant actions within their community.

The key innovation is the EnergySchools online platform that allows students to:

  • crowd-source energy and environmental data about their households
  • analyse them in relation to open data (including typical energy consumption, impact of actions, etc.)
  • define and run energy initiatives in their home, and collectively in their community
  • disseminate leanings beyond their community, through a network of schools
  • unleash monetary savings in their home, school and community

EnergySchools transforms students into agents of change with long-term effects on individuals (students learning, awareness and empowerment), on their communities (energy savings, community awareness through the school), and globally (through community networking and exchange).
EnergySchools’ sustainable business proposition is based on an innovative education offer for schools, and its ability to aggregate energy demand and energy savings potentials from communities to achieve measurable community-wide energy savings.

How did you come up with the idea, when was the light bulb moment?

Sean and Gerd have worked on bringing the Internet of Things to schools and have experienced the excitement that technology and data skills can bring to the classroom. As parents both have experienced how kids can influence parents.
Gerd is responsible for both the Education and Energy initiatives of MK:Smart (www.smart.org). Mathieu is a semantic web researchers with deep knowledge of open data and responsible for developing the technical platform for MK:Smart.
When we saw the call several ideas emerged immediately. When Gerd and Mathieu attended the first event in Bristol they had two concrete project ideas: one of which was education focused.
The day before the Create weekend all three got on the phone and came up with the final brilliant idea.             

Tell us how your project will help communities to a) save money on their energy bills b) undertake community based energy efficiency interventions or c) start to generate their own energy

EnergySchools tackles key barriers of community energy projects:

  • Lack of awareness 
among residents
  • Lack of knowledge 
about choices,
  • Lack of understanding 
about potential impact,
  • Lack of motivation,
  • Need too establish trust,
  • No knowledge of 
how to move forward

EnergySchools creates a foundation for communities to form and learn about energy, inspired by their kids and facilitated by the local school.
A technical platform provides energy analytics for community households and makes it possible to aggregate demand and supply patterns. This creates a basis for behaviour change initiatives and investment decisions and provides a way to monitor outcomes.

Author

Alicia Weekes

Alicia Weekes

Alicia Weekes

Project Coordinator, Open Data Challenge Series

Alicia was a project coordinator for the Open Data Challenge Series and provided support to both Nesta and the Open Data Institute.

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